How curling's more than just a game for Spain's Garcia

  • Irantzu Garcia throwing at her tenth world mixed doubles curling championship © WCF / Tom Rowland

Earning the right to represent your nation at a world championship is something not many curlers will have the honour of experiencing. Earning the right to represent your nation for the tenth year in a row – now that’s something exclusive.

For Irantzu Garcia, a 25-year-old Spanish mixed doubles player, she wears her country’s colours with just as much pride as she did ten years ago at her first World Mixed Doubles championship in Finland. Her dedication to the sport has shaped her to be the woman she is today – a doctor, an athlete, a coach and a WCF umpire recently returning from officiating the Paralympic Games in Korea.

[Pictured below: Umpiring at the Paralympic Winter Games 2018 | Photo © WCF / Céline Stucki]
“For me, it was really hard to be a doctor and get the career done while I was curling. But playing curling helped me set my goal. I said, “I really want to be a doctor, so I will do it!” I took it as a game. Every day – game, after game, after game, and it really helped,” she says.

Irantzu believes having experience in every aspect of the sport has made her a better player. Something she hopes will help her in reaching her next goal, competing at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China.

“You understand every part of the sport,” she says. “Especially since I went to the Paralympics, I said, “I want to be there.” It’s going to be a really hard process. We know that in Spain, we don’t really have access to the ice rinks like we should. So, it’s a lot of planning.”

Even though the success of mixed doubles in its Olympics debut is still fresh in people’s minds, the preparation for the next Olympic cycle starts now. Irantzu knows to have a fighting chance at playing in the Olympic games, she may have to make some big life changes.

“We are thinking about maybe moving to another curling country because that’s the only way we can really get there and play the top teams,” she says.

Despite curling in Spain, a less traditional curling country, Irantzu still has to earn her spot on the roster at the world championship each year. She’s been playing alongside her brother, Gontzal Garcia, for the last four years, and before that, her cousin. The pair have been competing against 15 teams in the national event and facing the same team in the final for the last five years.

“It’s really special to me. Every year it gets really hard to beat the main team we have in Spain. But I think the experience we have helps winning the finals back home,” she says. “It’s just that I love the game so much. I come here and enjoy every minute of it. Even if it’s my tenth, I enjoy it as if it were my first.”

Mixed doubles is a cozy discipline of curling, with only two on a team, and four athletes playing on the sheet of ice at a time. Returning to the worlds year, after year, allows Irantzu to not only achieve her goals, but make lifelong friendships.

“The atmosphere in mixed doubles is different than four-person curling. We all know each other, we’re all close and good friends,” says Irantzu [pictured right: at her first world mixed doubles championship in 2008].

“I’ll never stop playing mixed doubles, as long as I have the chance.”

Written by feature writer; Emily Dwyer

To engage with the World Curling Federation on social media in the build to the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship 2018 follow it on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags when posting: #WMDCC2018 #curling